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Monday, 10 August 2015 01:41

Top 5 Cloud Certifications of 2015

Posted By  Ed Jones

With close to half a million cloud jobs on offer there’s never been a better time to consider a career in cloud, but have you got the right certifications to get the job? Firebrands’ Ed Jones looks at the options.

With the cloud computing industry expanding exponentially, there has never been a greater need for skilled cloud professionals. The current UK cloud computing market alone is estimated at around £6.1 billion. There are currently about 446,703 cloud jobs in the UK and 18,239,258 worldwide. There has been no better time than now, to grow your own skills to secure a place in the cloud industry. The marketplace shows no signs of deceleration, with global demand for cloud-related positions set to rise by 26% through 2015.

To cope with increasing demand for cloud skills many cloud providers and education bodies have begun to introduce a widening range of cloud certifications, that deal with specific  cloud services and more general cloud computing environments. As an IT professional looking to add to your skill set, having the right certifications can give you a real edge over the competition. In this article, I will focus on some of the best of 2015 so far.

1. Microsoft MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect

The Microsoft MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect is a powerful certification to have on your resume. Comprised of three specialised certifications, it covers architecting, developing and administering Azure solutions. With Microsoft Azure increasing in global popularity to the point where more than 1,000 new customers are signing up per day; this is clearly a platform that IT professionals should be watching with interest.

Following the official end of extended support for Windows Server 2003, on July 14 of this year, Azure looks likely to be adopted by more and more businesses and organisations around the globe. 57% of Fortune 500 companies are already using Azure, and gaining the qualifications to operate in the Azure environment is an excellent way to increase your likelihood of success in the cloud computing marketplace.

Here is a brief breakdown of the three components offered under the umbrella MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect:

- Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions (exam 70-352)

This certification is for IT developers who need to be able to create Azure Virtual Machines and Virtual Networks, as well as hosting Azure websites and designing cloud applications.

- Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions (exam 70-533)

This component is pitched at experienced IT professionals, who wish to develop the necessary skills to migrate existing infrastructures to the Azure platform. Having this certification verifies your abilities to implement cloud services, manage SQL databases and integrate Azure Active Directories.

- Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions (exam 70-534)

This third and final exam builds on the skills and knowledge gained from achieving the previous two certifications. A successful candidate will be able to prove their abilities to create advanced, scalable websites and applications, as well as designing monitoring and disaster recovery strategies.

2. (ISC)2 Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)

The importance of security is always paramount when it comes to developing IT systems, but with more and more businesses choosing cloud computing over dedicated servers, cutting-edge knowledge of cloud security is more sought after than ever. Security breaches can be incredibly damaging to a company’s reputation, as well as highly profitable for hackers, and cyber-attacks remain an unfortunate reality of the industry.

CCSP certification is designed for experienced information security professionals and is fully accredited by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium. Successful holders of CCSP certification will be able to prove their skills in securing cloud data and applications. They will also have covered risk analysis and privacy issues, and be able to display knowledge of required compliance procedures with regard to legislative frameworks.

In short, an IT professional with the (ISC)2 CCSP certification in their tool belt has proven that they have met the highest standard of competence in cloud-based security and, as such, can provide both expertise and peace of mind to any employer invested in the cloud computing market.

3. Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Solutions Architect

The Amazon Web Services Certified Solutions Architect is a two-tiered certification which verifies knowledge of working on the AWS platform. The certification is broken down into “Associate” and “Professional” levels:

- AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate

This certification is for IT professionals who have at least one year’s experience of designing secure, reliable systems and applications on the Amazon Web Services platform. Candidates should already know at least one programming language at an advanced level and be able to display an ability to define the requirements for AWS-based applications.

Skills covered by the “Associate” level certification include ingress and egress of data in the AWS environment, designing and deploying scalable systems on the platform and identifying the appropriate use of best practices. Successful candidates will also be able to show an ability to estimate and identify AWS costs and cost control mechanisms.

- AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional

In order to gain this “Professional” level qualification, a candidate is already required to hold the “Associate” level certification. In addition, they should have two or more years’ hands-on experience of designing and deploying cloud architecture on the AWS platform. This certification is pitched at those who need to prove that they are able to design and deploy enterprise-wide, scalable AWS operations, as well as migrate complex, multi-tier applications on the platform.

4. Microsoft MCSE: Private Cloud

Microsoft MCSE: Private Cloud certification is a great qualification for IT professionals working with Microsoft technologies, which require provable expertise in server administration, systems programming and network management. This certification focuses on creating, deploying and operating private cloud infrastructures within the Windows Server environment. IT professionals who wish to gain this certification should therefore already have MCSA: Windows Server 2012 certification (those with Windows Server 2008 certification can upgrade to 2012 by taking exam 70-417).

Some of the skills covered in this certification include creating the core components required for delivering Private Cloud services, allocation of resources and access granting. Certification holders will also have learnt how to configure PXE servers and have a solid understanding of Operations Manager controls for Private Cloud environments. The certification is broken down into two exams:

- Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012 (exam 70-246)

- Configuring and Deploying a Private Cloud with System Center 2012 (exam 70-247)

5. CompTIA Cloud+

The CompTIA Cloud+ certification should be of most interest to experienced IT professionals working in the fields of data administration, storage, and networking, and it is designed to help those wishing to bring this knowledge into more cloud-specific roles. Candidates should have provable work experience in the aforementioned areas, as well as an understanding of hypervisor technologies with regard to server visualization.

The skills highlighted by this certification include an ability to explain and put into practice security techniques, an understanding of available cloud delivery services and models, and knowledge of cloud infrastructure maintenance and delivery. This is a holistic qualification for an IT professional to hold and acts as a good foundation for career progression into roles as diverse as cloud engineer and business analyst.

Perhaps one of the greatest selling points of CompTIA Cloud+ is that it is vendor-neutral, unlike MCSE: Private Cloud. This means that a Cloud+ holder’s skills are not limited to one particular service or platform, such as Windows Server or System Center. In an industry where versatility and flexibility are so important, this could indeed be an excellent certification to have to your name.


In this article, I have touched on some of the most exciting cloud certifications of 2015 so far. All of them have proven that they have a place in the competitive world of cloud computing, and each one offers its own set of skills to the IT professional wishing to grow their qualifications. I would urge anybody with an interest in securing their place in the cloud job market to look in more detail at these certifications to help them decide which is best suited to them, and their chosen career path.

Author Profile

This list has been compiled by contributor Ed Jones from Firebrand Training. Ed is an active member of the IT community writing for a range of renowned technology publications including Computerworld, TechNet , and TechTarget. Ed has been in the industry over 4 years and has an array of experience with Microsoft technologies including the Windows Desktop OS, Windows Server, and SharePoint.

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